Protection of Privacy and Confidentiality

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Science  23 Nov 1973:
Vol. 182, Issue 4114, pp. 797-802
DOI: 10.1126/science.182.4114.797


A multistate, cooperative program seeking to develop better methods for the effective and efficient gathering. storing, analyzing, and utilizing of mental patient records has made a comprehensive effort to protect the confidentiality and privacy of these psychiatric patient records. Administrative, technical, and legal safeguards have been implemented. The discussion of legal safeguards involves two areas: the protection of the system itself, located at Rockland State Hospital; and the specific legal environment of confidentiality and privacy of mental health records and information in the group of cooperating jurisdictions.

On the whole, adequate legal and administrative protection can be afforded the confidentiality and privacy of an electronic data system in the mental health field, and access to the records can be restricted for the welfare of the patients. At the same time, access to aggregate data in the system can be allowed, under proper standards, for important research and planning purposes. The methods adopted by MSIS to preserve confidentiality and privacy by limiting access to such records could well prove an important model for the development of protective methods in other electronic data programs—not only those in psychiatry, but those in other fields where the data collected are sensitive and confidential.